When Teachers Were Professionals
Many teachers are dedicated people. They love the kids they teach and some even go above and beyond expectations. But they are not professional any more.
Long ago and far away the National Education Association (NEA) made a point of presenting itself as a professional association. The organization regularly compared itself to the American Medical Association (AMA), The Bar Association, the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) and the American Psychological Association (APA). You will note that each of these organizations calls itself an association. In comparison, the United Steel Workers, the Teamsters Union and the AFL-CIO are all unions; the word association is not in their name.
In the days of yesteryear, the NEA consistently said it was not a union. Not so any more. So, what is different. First of all, a professional puts the needs of the people they serve before their own health and welfare needs. When was the last time you heard of the NEA or the AFT threatening to go on strike for better conditions and or materials for the kids? For all the jumping and shouting about how bad Common Core and the commensurate testing are, teachers have not once had a strong enough backbone to refuse to participate because this was bad for the students they taught. Instead, teachers “associations” join the other unions lobbying for more money for themselves and better benefits for themselves. They are even willing to sell out their retired compatriots allowing the school systems to reduce health care for those who are retired as long as current members get the better deal. After all, these are the present dues paying members. This behavior is not at all unlike the grocery clerks’ union.
Professionals also have significant say over who can get into their profession. This situation is true for physicians, attorneys, speech and language therapists and psychologists. If you want to be in one of these professions you need to jump through the hoops of the professional association. Teachers have no say at all. State Department of Ed bureaucrats (or politicians) decide what tests prospective teachers should take and what courses as well. Teachers are just lambs led to the slaughter.
Teachers are also not consulted about how much and what kind of professional development they need. A recent survey by the Education Week Research Center showed that the vast majority of teachers want common planning time and the opportunity to mentor new teachers. Instead, they are getting professional development around better preparing the students for the testing. Teachers report that only 17% of them have a lot of input into the professional training they will receive. It seems teachers get no respect in that arena either,
Teachers and their organizations need to get off the union mentality and start thinking and acting as professionals. If their current associations won’t do it, then get new organizations. Not too long ago a California case almost made it but then Scalia died. The case would have allowed teachers who did not agree with the political position of the union to opt our of paying dues. In essence, doing away with the closed shop that exists in many states. With Gorsuch on the bench, this might be the time for another try.
Can you imagine what schools might look like if teachers really had some investment?